Oxygen enrichment of room air to improve well-being and productivity at high altitude

Int J Occup Environ Health. 1999 Jul-Sep;5(3):187-93. doi: 10.1179/oeh.1999.5.3.187.


Increasingly, commercial activities, such as mines, and scientific facilities, such as telescopes, are being placed at very high altitudes, up to 5,000 m. Frequently workers commute to these locations from much lower altitudes, or even from sea level. In addition, large numbers of people permanently live and work at high altitudes. The hypoxia of high altitude impairs sleep quality, mental performance, productivity, and general well-being. Recently it has become feasible to raise the oxygen concentration of room air by injecting oxygen into the air conditioning. This is remarkably effective at reducing the equivalent altitude. For example, increasing the oxygen concentration by 1% (e.g., from 21% to 22%) reduces the equivalent altitude by about 300 m. In other words, a room at an altitude of 4,500 m containing 26% oxygen is effectively at an altitude of 3,000 m. Oxygen enrichment has now been tested in several studies and shown to improve sleep quality and cognitive function. The fire hazard is less than in air at sea level. This innovative technique promises to improve productivity and well-being at high altitude.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Conditioning / economics
  • Air Conditioning / methods*
  • Altitude Sickness / prevention & control*
  • Astronomical Phenomena
  • Astronomy
  • Cognition
  • Efficiency*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings
  • Mining
  • Occupational Health*
  • Oxygen*
  • Sleep
  • Travel


  • Oxygen